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The next few years will be huge for non-profit mobile apps. I was just at the NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference and several people and vendors were talking about apps they were designing or already developing, with nothing released yet. The current marketplace for mobile apps is all about games, some work and lots of social interactions. With all of the difficulties nonprofits are having with the current financial situation, mobile applications may be a great opportunity to reach a passionate base of socially and technology aware users who are looking for causes that speak to them and then to have an easy way to spread that cause. Look at all the people who donated to the Red Cross after the earthquake in Haiti—if it had been harder than tapping donate into a text message, people would not have given so much and certainly not as quickly.
A growing number of development houses are offering very basic apps—essentially mobile RSS feeds—but at a cost most nonprofits can't afford. I saw an opportunity to build IntraHealth's iPhone app in-house, developing additional features with just an inexpensive Apple development license on a MacBook we already had. But I also need to acknowledge that working at IntraHealth allowed me some unusual flexibility to develop the app outside of the daily Helpdesk expectations of my position and for that I need to thank my manager and IT director.
After the initial excitement of getting the license and downloading all the SDKs (software development kits), I had to take a step back for a couple of weeks and go back to the literal drawing board as to what I wanted the app to feature and then what I hoped I’d be able to code. Those pencil sketches match the final 1.0 version five months later completely, I just built out functionality based on what could be done or to match correct user interface standards. The app includes many iPhone-specific features usually found in several different apps and these include:
There are also two versions in the App Store—the full version that I would recommend to anyone who has 140 MB free on their iPhone or iPod Touch, and a Lite version that excludes the videos and audio files and plays them back from YouTube and from our website, respectively.
As we add new countries or new projects, that information can now be quickly updated into the app and pushed to everyone who’s downloaded the app through the App Store. I just started sketching out an iPad-specific app and look forward to releasing that within the next 6–8 weeks to take full advantage of the larger screen and new user interface designs. Now that it's officially released, I hope as people hear about IntraHealth, they download our apps to learn more and are inspired enough to share it with others—whether by emailing the iTunes link, mentioning us on Twitter (@IHAPP) or showing one of our videos to someone from their phone.
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